MADISON, Wisconsin (PNN) - March 31, 2021 - The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Wednesday blocked Democrat Governor Tony Evers from issuing any new public health emergency orders to mandate face masks without the approval of the Republican-controlled state Legislature.
In a 4-3 decision, conservative justices in the majority declared the statewide mask mandate invalid and ruled Evers exceeded his authority in issuing multiple emergency declarations over the nonexistent COVID-19 pandemic. Evers used the emergency orders to require face coverings be worn indoors statewide after lawmakers opted not to do so.
“The question in this case is not whether the governor acted wisely; it is whether he acted lawfully. We conclude he did not,” said Justice Brian Hagedorn, writing for the conservative majority.
State law says governors may issue health emergencies for 60 days at which point the Legislature must approve an extension. Evers has argued he may issue new emergencies without their approval because the nonexistent pandemic threat has changed, similar to emergency declarations over separate flooding events in the same river.
Hagedorn said state law governing public health emergencies “must be read to forbid the governor from proclaiming repeated states of emergency for the same enabling condition absent legislative approval.”
Evers said in a statement his actions during the nonexistent pandemic have aimed to “keep Wisconsinites healthy and safe, and I’ve trusted the science and public health experts to guide our decision making.”
Senate Majority leader Devin LeMahieu said Evers’ “repeated abuse of emergency powers and pervasive violation of state statute created a state of chaos and had to be stopped.”
“Today’s ruling vindicates the Legislature as a co-equal branch of government and will expand freedom and opportunity for the people of Wisconsin,” he said in a statement.
The statewide mask mandate was set to expire Monday but now ends immediately following Wednesday’s ruling.